Reporters Should Befriend Digital Team

Having data in stories adds to credibility and benefits reporters, but so does data on content views, page views and story views. The digital team staffers in your newsroom might not be your best friends now, but they should be.

Yet reporters might complain that their stories “didn’t get on the front page or my story didn’t get a lot of views because the digital team refused to push that out there or share that,” but it could be because they knew it wouldn’t get a lot of views, said Holly Moore, director of Network Planning for USA Today Network. 

A panel spoke on “What Audience-Centric Newsrooms Do Right” Tuesday at the annual News Leaders Conference in New Orleans.

When newsrooms are empathetic and listen to reporters, they can help reporters and try different methods to achieve, said Suki Dardarian, managing editor at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis. The panel discussion was Tuesday during the News Leaders Association Conference in New Orleans.

Having one-on-one conversations with reporters about why the data is important can make a difference. Data equals audience and that’s how to sustain business, Moore said.

The Seattle Times has a digital set up that allows reporters to compare themselves to last year and see how content views are changing. It’s important to take stock of where we are right now as an industry, said Danny Gawlowski, assisting managing editor for the Seattle Times. 

Danny Gawlowski explains importance of tracking change.
Photo by Mary Eber

“This is about building the revenue it’s going to take to sustain journalism to get to a more stable place as soon as possible,” said Gawlowski.

USA Today Network also has built in a way to see individual reporter data, so reporters can compare their work to past work. They’re competing against themselves, said Moore.

“Affirmations are my love language,” said Moore. “I like to look at the numbers and see them pop up.” 

Younger journalists she works with created a group to talk out headlines. Sometimes there will be 20 headlines and they stop what they’re doing and help each other pick out which one’s the best. 

“The other day within 20 minutes of changing the headline, a story’s traffic grew by 700 percent,” said Moore.

The goal right now for USA Today Network is to build digital subscriptions. When someone subscribes they can look at all the stories the reader viewed on their path to subscription. It’s what they call “subscription influence,” said Moore.

Mary Eber is a senior at Ball State University in Muncie, IN, majoring in Journalism and Telecommunications. She graduates in December 2019 and can be reached at maryebernews@gmail.com

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